Punjabi/Khalsa Schools: Where Do They Go?

On TLH we have posted on the importance of Punjabi/Khalsa Schools. I have found that despite many students’ resistance to attend these schools, they plant the seeds for future exploration into Sikhi. At the age of 12 you may think you are too cool for school on Sundays, but at 19-20 or even 30 that experience creates a base for you to delve more deeply into your spiritual identity. Thus, I think it is extremely important that each Sikh community have at least one good Punjabi/Khalsa school. Ideally, I would want each Gurdwara to have one.

However, Punjabi/Khalsa Schools run into problems because in some way or another they become linked with communal politics. Most often this politics infiltrates schools within Gurdwaras. I think a fundamental component of a Gurdwara is a Punjabi/Khalsa School as is a Langar Hall. However, for many Gurdwaras, Punjabi/Khalsa Schools are a last priority. Gurdwara committees will fund new kitchen appliances before making a commitment to continually fund a Punjabi/Khalsa School. Thus, some community members have decided to create Punjabi/Khalsa Schools outside of the Gurdwara in local community-centers. When I hear this, I am both excited and disappointed. Excited that a school has been established; but disappointed that we are showing Sikh youth that we have to step outside of our main institution, the Gurdwara. How are we supposed to socialize our children into a Gurdwara-going culture when our leadership doesnt support it in action? Its a Catch 22. I dont blame community members for creating schools outside of the Gurdwara. Their circumstances are real and, many times, this is their only feasible option. Or is it?


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12 Responses to “Punjabi/Khalsa Schools: Where Do They Go?”

  1. RP Singh says:

    Great topic, Phulkari. I'm all for creating Punjabi/Khalsa Schools outside of the Gurdwara structure. I've seen them managed both ways, and notice a clear difference with those run independently from Gurdwaras. It takes a lot of commitment and a tremendous amount of work to run any type of school, and to rely on a constantly-changing Gurdwara management, often caught up in personality conflicts, power conflicts, and money problems is not a good foundation to start with. Plus, many parents treat Punjabi/Khalsa schools during Sunday Deevan like a daycare for their kids, sending them or not sending them based on their convenience – leaving the problem with the teachers to figure out what to do with them. I do, however, feel that independent Punjabi/Khalsa schools should have "Gurdwara liaisons" to work with the committees (of all the local Gurdwaras) and ensure that all parents are aware of the school and make it as accessible as possible for everyone. I slightly disagree with your point that a Punjabi/Khalsa School is a fundamental component of a Gurdwara…but I feel that learning is. Perhaps we need more "learning" to happen during the Deevan itself – because that needs to happen for the 12 year old, 30 year old, and 70 year old alike. Just a thought…

  2. RP Singh says:

    Great topic, Phulkari. I’m all for creating Punjabi/Khalsa Schools outside of the Gurdwara structure. I’ve seen them managed both ways, and notice a clear difference with those run independently from Gurdwaras. It takes a lot of commitment and a tremendous amount of work to run any type of school, and to rely on a constantly-changing Gurdwara management, often caught up in personality conflicts, power conflicts, and money problems is not a good foundation to start with. Plus, many parents treat Punjabi/Khalsa schools during Sunday Deevan like a daycare for their kids, sending them or not sending them based on their convenience – leaving the problem with the teachers to figure out what to do with them. I do, however, feel that independent Punjabi/Khalsa schools should have “Gurdwara liaisons” to work with the committees (of all the local Gurdwaras) and ensure that all parents are aware of the school and make it as accessible as possible for everyone. I slightly disagree with your point that a Punjabi/Khalsa School is a fundamental component of a Gurdwara…but I feel that learning is. Perhaps we need more “learning” to happen during the Deevan itself – because that needs to happen for the 12 year old, 30 year old, and 70 year old alike. Just a thought…

  3. Jodha says:

    The San Jose Khalsa School can be seen as a example in terms of the way its run. The school location is at the Gurdwara sahib but the management is completely sperate from the Gurdwara Committee. The school is registered as a sperate non-profit so the money that is donated/collected is used only for the school and not for the general fund.

    In my opinion the school being attached to the Gurdwara sahib is very important.

  4. Jodha says:

    The San Jose Khalsa School can be seen as a example in terms of the way its run. The school location is at the Gurdwara sahib but the management is completely sperate from the Gurdwara Committee. The school is registered as a sperate non-profit so the money that is donated/collected is used only for the school and not for the general fund.

    In my opinion the school being attached to the Gurdwara sahib is very important.

  5. Phulkari says:

    RP Singh,

    I couldn’t agree with you more! The politics is horrible and, many times, it kills that wonderful and genuine spirit people have to serve the Panth. Thus, people need to leave to do good work. However, I think “leaving” the Gurdwara should be a temporary move. As a community, we should not be content with it in the long-term. Your suggestion of Gurdwara liaisons could help maintain a connection between schools and Gurdwaras in the interim.

    So, how do we fix this problem? Personally, I don’t think building more accountability mechanisms within Gurdwaras and other Sikh organizations will solve our problems. They just build more structures that people create more politics to navigate through. The ultimate fix is an attitude change. This change will require us to actually start looking within ourselves and make concerted attempts to implement Gurbani in our lives and lessons from our Sikh history.

    Yes, learning is a fundamental component of the Gurdwara; however, my personal perspective is that the Gurdwara is a community institution that should serve community needs. Punjabi/Khalsa Schools are a community need that this institution should serve. Unfortunately, right now many of our Gurdwaras don’t have environments that would breed such actions.

    Jodha,

    Yes, San Jose Khalsa School is a great example in many ways. It has done a good job of building a quality program, while remaining apart of the Gurdwara without getting broiled in its politics. I think setting up a separate funding system was good step; although, ideally each Gurdwara should designate a certain percentage of its operating budget for maintaining Punjabi/Khalsa Schools.

    However, San Jose Khalsa School was able to build its program and maintain it for over 20 years because it had advocates within the Gurdwara Committee itself. The case is similar in Fresno. What will happen when these advocates leave or school leadership changes? Aside from money, getting access to space and dealing with parental concerns is a huge issue where Gurdwara Committees and school leadership can butt heads.

  6. Phulkari says:

    RP Singh,

    I couldnt agree with you more! The politics is horrible and, many times, it kills that wonderful and genuine spirit people have to serve the Panth. Thus, people need to leave to do good work. However, I think leaving the Gurdwara should be a temporary move. As a community, we should not be content with it in the long-term. Your suggestion of Gurdwara liaisons could help maintain a connection between schools and Gurdwaras in the interim.

    So, how do we fix this problem? Personally, I dont think building more accountability mechanisms within Gurdwaras and other Sikh organizations will solve our problems. They just build more structures that people create more politics to navigate through. The ultimate fix is an attitude change. This change will require us to actually start looking within ourselves and make concerted attempts to implement Gurbani in our lives and lessons from our Sikh history.

    Yes, learning is a fundamental component of the Gurdwara; however, my personal perspective is that the Gurdwara is a community institution that should serve community needs. Punjabi/Khalsa Schools are a community need that this institution should serve. Unfortunately, right now many of our Gurdwaras dont have environments that would breed such actions.

    Jodha,

    Yes, San Jose Khalsa School is a great example in many ways. It has done a good job of building a quality program, while remaining apart of the Gurdwara without getting broiled in its politics. I think setting up a separate funding system was good step; although, ideally each Gurdwara should designate a certain percentage of its operating budget for maintaining Punjabi/Khalsa Schools.

    However, San Jose Khalsa School was able to build its program and maintain it for over 20 years because it had advocates within the Gurdwara Committee itself. The case is similar in Fresno. What will happen when these advocates leave or school leadership changes? Aside from money, getting access to space and dealing with parental concerns is a huge issue where Gurdwara Committees and school leadership can butt heads.

  7. justasikh says:

    Which Khalsa/Punjabi schools have produced citizens of humanity capable of interacting with all of man kind? Most (over 90%) graduates of these types of schools I have met have rebelled even moreso than the average public school child.

    It is important to learn your background. In North America we have to learn to balance the best of two cultures (western/punjabi), one nationality, and one faith.

    Sadly, continuing to teach all or nothing in most of these narrow viewed schools creates handicapped children that feel alienated, neglected and disconnected from the general populace.

    If you visit a city that has attempted these school with a lot of josh, and not hosh, like Vancouver, you will find that the Khalsa KSChool kids are amongst the more confused/rebellious as soon as they can get away from it.

    I think these schools are a cop out for most parents. I went to Public school and was encouraged to learn about sikh i on my own. So I did. I wasn't forced to go to sikh camps etc.

    How to solve this? Integrated programs in existing schools. To be a citizen of humanity you have to live amongst humanity, interact with humanity and learn about your own roots and let others learn of your common bonds.

    Sadly the lack of foresight by most major sikh institutions for the longevity and sustainability of their youth is leaving behind another generation of parrots that become the interpretation of "Sikh" that their parents generation before them blindly followed without a single thought…

    Khalsa schools will continue to fail as long as they are tied to gurdwaras that are failures. An organization is only as good and capable as the people in them and behind them.

    My kids will go to Public School to learn humanity and how to deal with everyone and see the light of god in everyone. As a parent it is my duty to teach them that, not to shuffle them off to a Khalsa school because I'm too lazy or busy to learn for myself or teach them. Segregated schools have never worked if anyone has done the reasearch.

  8. justasikh says:

    Which Khalsa/Punjabi schools have produced citizens of humanity capable of interacting with all of man kind? Most (over 90%) graduates of these types of schools I have met have rebelled even moreso than the average public school child.

    It is important to learn your background. In North America we have to learn to balance the best of two cultures (western/punjabi), one nationality, and one faith.

    Sadly, continuing to teach all or nothing in most of these narrow viewed schools creates handicapped children that feel alienated, neglected and disconnected from the general populace.

    If you visit a city that has attempted these school with a lot of josh, and not hosh, like Vancouver, you will find that the Khalsa KSChool kids are amongst the more confused/rebellious as soon as they can get away from it.

    I think these schools are a cop out for most parents. I went to Public school and was encouraged to learn about sikh i on my own. So I did. I wasn’t forced to go to sikh camps etc.

    How to solve this? Integrated programs in existing schools. To be a citizen of humanity you have to live amongst humanity, interact with humanity and learn about your own roots and let others learn of your common bonds.

    Sadly the lack of foresight by most major sikh institutions for the longevity and sustainability of their youth is leaving behind another generation of parrots that become the interpretation of “Sikh” that their parents generation before them blindly followed without a single thought…

    Khalsa schools will continue to fail as long as they are tied to gurdwaras that are failures. An organization is only as good and capable as the people in them and behind them.

    My kids will go to Public School to learn humanity and how to deal with everyone and see the light of god in everyone. As a parent it is my duty to teach them that, not to shuffle them off to a Khalsa school because I’m too lazy or busy to learn for myself or teach them. Segregated schools have never worked if anyone has done the reasearch.

  9. misskaur says:

    This is a very interesting subject. As I have two children and a full time working mom. It is very difficult to give the time to my children to teach them about the sikh history. I would not say i am being too lazy, but the fact of the matter is that I only have a certain amount of time I can give to my children, and in that time I will be teaching them the more impotant life lessons, about telling the truth, working hard for money,coping eith failure, building detrmination to succeed, how to focus with the trume meaning of life and not get so consumed with materialistic things. Khalsa school is great, however it is important to stay ontop of what your child is learning and how he interacts with other non-sikh people.

  10. misskaur says:

    This is a very interesting subject. As I have two children and a full time working mom. It is very difficult to give the time to my children to teach them about the sikh history. I would not say i am being too lazy, but the fact of the matter is that I only have a certain amount of time I can give to my children, and in that time I will be teaching them the more impotant life lessons, about telling the truth, working hard for money,coping eith failure, building detrmination to succeed, how to focus with the trume meaning of life and not get so consumed with materialistic things. Khalsa school is great, however it is important to stay ontop of what your child is learning and how he interacts with other non-sikh people.

  11. Baaz Singh says:

    Fremont Gurdwara Suspends Sojhi Program in school

    WSN Network

    FREMONT: The Fremont Gurdwara Sahib has suspended the Sojhi program developed and promoted by the Sikh Research Institute (SRI) pending the resolution of the issues with the Sojhi curriculum. Sojhi school curriculum is a program designed to teach Punjabi language and literature, and Sikh philosophy and history to young Sikhs in schools run by the Gurdwaras.

    In April, the Fremont Gurdwara management sent a letter to the Sikh Research Institute (SRI) expressing concerns that the curriculum has misleading material on some fundamental concepts of Sikhism and Sikh history. The letter particularly expressed concern over the way SRI has changed the Dohra that the Sikh Panth has made part of the Ardas.

    SRI is propagating the view that the Panth has a shared guruship with the Guru Granth whereas it is an established fact that Gur Gaddi was passed on by Guru Gobind Singh ji to Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji alone. This is evident from the fact that the Panth just celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib ji. The letter also asked the SRI to refrain from changing the spellings of the Gur Mantar to Wahguru as nobody has the authority to change spellings of the Gurbani.

    According to the Fremont Gurdwara management, in response to the letter, SRI has only communicated that its curriculum review board will consider the issues that have been raised in the letter. SRI has not given any indication that it agrees in principle with the issues raised. It has been two months since the letter was sent and the SRI has not given the Fremont gurdwara management any assurance that the Sojhi curriculum will be revised to resolve these issues.

    After waiting for about two months for any indication or assurance that SRI will make the needed revisions, the gurdwara management says, they think it is best to suspend the program.

    24 June 2009

  12. Baaz Singh says:

    Fremont Gurdwara Suspends Sojhi Program in school
    WSN Network

    FREMONT: The Fremont Gurdwara Sahib has suspended the Sojhi program developed and promoted by the Sikh Research Institute (SRI) pending the resolution of the issues with the Sojhi curriculum. Sojhi school curriculum is a program designed to teach Punjabi language and literature, and Sikh philosophy and history to young Sikhs in schools run by the Gurdwaras.

    In April, the Fremont Gurdwara management sent a letter to the Sikh Research Institute (SRI) expressing concerns that the curriculum has misleading material on some fundamental concepts of Sikhism and Sikh history. The letter particularly expressed concern over the way SRI has changed the Dohra that the Sikh Panth has made part of the Ardas.

    SRI is propagating the view that the Panth has a shared guruship with the Guru Granth whereas it is an established fact that Gur Gaddi was passed on by Guru Gobind Singh ji to Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji alone. This is evident from the fact that the Panth just celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Gurgaddi Divas of Guru Granth Sahib ji. The letter also asked the SRI to refrain from changing the spellings of the Gur Mantar to Wahguru as nobody has the authority to change spellings of the Gurbani.

    According to the Fremont Gurdwara management, in response to the letter, SRI has only communicated that its curriculum review board will consider the issues that have been raised in the letter. SRI has not given any indication that it agrees in principle with the issues raised. It has been two months since the letter was sent and the SRI has not given the Fremont gurdwara management any assurance that the Sojhi curriculum will be revised to resolve these issues.

    After waiting for about two months for any indication or assurance that SRI will make the needed revisions, the gurdwara management says, they think it is best to suspend the program.

    24 June 2009